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Compensate victims of corporal punishment

Compensate victims of corporal punishment
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The Kendriya Vidyalaya Sanghatan is a very big academic institution in India catering to educational needs of central government employees,...

The Kendriya Vidyalaya Sanghatan is a very big academic institution in India catering to educational needs of central government employees, maintaining high standards. The teachers are trained not to inflict unreasonable physical punishments on the children.

Children have every right to pressure-free and punishment-less learning atmosphere. Compared to several corporate, private coaching shops, the KVS has made sincere efforts to eliminate corporal punishments from its schools. There was an RTI demand for information about physical assault on student by teacher.

An applicant wanted details of his disciplinary action against his son-in-law, a teacher in KVS for beating a student. The CPIO denied it considering it as third party information. When the First Appellate Authority consulted the teacher concerned on disclosure, and as he objected, he also denied the information.

The case reached the CIC. Applicant says that his daughter does not want to give custody of children to this teacher. He wanted to produce the action taken report against him. The Commission noted this motive. The KVS explained that after an inquiry, his two increments were cut, and then he was transferred to a different school.

The CIC held that considering the disciplinary action against a teacher for corporal punishment as personal and treating the disclosure of this as third-party information is not justified. This information should be provided by the public authority on its own as mandated by Section 4(1)(d), which says: Every public authority shall....(d) provide reasons for its administrative or quasi judicial decisions to affected persons. (c) publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public.

It is the duty of the KVS, an important educational public authority, to have a policy regarding elimination of corporal punishment, and that should be announced all over its branches and official website. It is a legal mandate and in the interests of children, their education and future of the nation.

The quasi-judicial decision in punishing the teacher for assaulting a child should be informed along with reasons to the students who are affected in general and the victim of that assault, or his family, in particular. The KVS has to report to the Commission whether they have informed the victim or his family about this quasi-judicial decision.

The KVS also shall inform its administrative policy that in the face of proven conduct of teacher inflicting injuries on child, teacher shall be transferred to the school. But transferring such a teacher to a different school without motivating him against such wrongs will lead to similar incidents in the school where he was transferred.

It is not known how the teacher was motivated by the KVS. While the Section 4 of RTI Act imposes an obligation on KVS to voluntarily disclose, they denied the information citing the Section 8(1)(j), which cannot be invoked in these facts and circumstances. The text of Section 8(1)(j) is as follows: 8(1)(j)...information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has not relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information...

Even if section 8(1)(j) is assumed to be invoked, the school should have considered that imposing corporal punishment on children is against several laws including the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, i.e., a public wrong, its disclosure has relationship with public activity and it will be in public interest, the revelation of which would not cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual, besides larger public interest is involved in disclosure only.

8(2) Notwithstanding anything in the Official Secrets Act, 1923 (19 of 1923) nor any of the exemptions permissible in accordance with sub section (1), a public authority may allow access to information, if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests.

Even if the Section 8(2) is brought in, the disclosure should have been the right course in comparative public interest. Corporal punishment in schools in India is a serious problem. The National Commission for Protection of Rights of Children (NCPRC) has issued comprehensive guidelines, which the KVS is expected to follow.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child defines “corporal” or “physical” punishment as any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light. Most involves hitting (“smacking,” “slapping,” “spanking”) children, with the hand or with an implement – a whip, stick, belt, shoe, wooden spoon, etc.

But it can also involve, for example, kicking, shaking or throwing children, scratching, pinching, biting, pulling hair or boxing ears, forcing children to stay in uncomfortable positions, burning, scalding or forced ingestion (for example, washing children’s mouths out with soap or forcing them to swallow hot spices). In the view of the Committee, corporal punishment is invariably degrading.

In addition, there are other non-physical forms of punishment that are also cruel and degrading and thus incompatible with the Convention. These include, for example, punishment which belittles, humiliates, denigrates, scapegoats, threatens, scares or ridicules the child.

Article 28(2) of UNCRC requires the State parties to “take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity and in conformity with the present Convention.”

Similarly, Article 29(1) (b) of the UN Convention emphasises that the “State parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to the development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations”.

Further, Article 37(a) of UNCRC requires the State parties to ensure that “no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. This is complemented by Article 19(1) of the Convention, which requires States to, “Take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.”

Article 19(2) lays down that: “Such protective measures should, as appropriate, include effective procedures for the establishment of social programmes to provide necessary support for the child and for those who have the care of the child, as well as for other forms of prevention and for identification, reporting, referral, investigation, treatment and follow-up of instances of child maltreatment described heretofore, and, as appropriate, for judicial involvement.”

The teacher and the school also shall be liable to pay compensation to the injured child, according to law. The Commission directed the KVS, its headquarters and regional directors to voluntarily disclose whether they have framed policy as advised by the NCPCR to eliminate the corporal punishment in their schools, details of incidents of corporal punishments and action taken against liable teachers, compensation to be paid and amount of compensation paid to the victims etc, every year, beginning with 2015-16, within three months.

The Commission recommended that each school shall publish such a report every year, which shall be the model for other school. It will go a long way in making school a place of pleasant learning free from assaults and humiliations. The KVS also should have a policy of paying some amount as compensation to the victim children and that amount should be deducted from the salary of liable teacher.

The public authority is directed to collect details of teachers punished for corporal assaults on children including the case complained. The Central Information Commission directed the KVS headquarters to circulate copy of this order to all schools and regional offices. (Based on the order of CIC in CIC/CC/A/2014/002226-SA, Brahmanand Misra v KVS, decided on 22.7.2016)

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